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Slumping Nets come home to face the champs

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New Orleans Pelicans v Toronto Raptors Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

It's starting to pile up. The Brooklyn Nets walked into Dallas hoping to put a stop to their current losing streak. Unfortunately for them, they couldn't get the job done as the Mavs added to their recent woes. The streak is up to four fames.

The opponent tonight will be the Toronto Raptors. Even without Kawhi Leonard, the defending champs are a lock to make the postseason. They lost on Thursday to the Heat in Miami.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WCBS 880 on radio (NFL Wildcard Weekend takes precedent on WFAN today). Tip off after 6 PM.


Kyrie Irving is still out. So is Kevin Durant and Nicolas Claxton. David Nwaba and Henry Ellenson have been waived with reports that Justin Anderson, a shooting guard, and Chris Chiozza, a point guard, will be signed. The big news is that Caris LeVert will make his return tonight. He and Garrett Temple are listed as probable. More on him in a minute.

Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, and Marc Gasol are out.

The game

Toronto won the first meeting in December.

LeVert is back, and the Nets are going to need him firing on all cylinders ASAP. Prior to the injury, LeVert had been struggling with his turnovers, so now that he's back, that's a part of his game that will need to improve if the Nets want to get back on track.

He'll have plenty of opportunities to run the offense as Brooklyn is in desperate need of someone else to carry the load. Going into the year, I thought LeVert had an outside chance of playing himself into the All Star Game. Obviously that won't happen, but he still has a chance to salvage his season and get the Nets back on the right track.

Even with all of the injuries, Nick Nurse has his guys playing at a high level every night. He's certainly a top tier coach in the NBA, and if the Raptors can continue hanging tough while their key players are out, they could positon themselves to go on another deep playoff run.

Going by usage rate, this is the most involved Serge Ibaka has ever been in his team's offense. The shooting percentages are down, but he's been getting to the line more often to make up for it.

The Brooklyn Duo (I think I've settled on “Brooklyn Heights,” but I'm still open to suggestions) of Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan will look to control the interior for Brooklyn. The Raps are third in the league in shots inside of five feet, but haven't had much success in converting on those shots. The same can be said for the Nets as they're tops in attempts, but 25th in efficiency. There could be a lot of bricks laid tonight.

Player to watch: Kyle Lowry

I didn't think of it til I saw it discussed on Twitter recently, but Lowry really is a lock for the Hall of Fame when his career is over. Cavliers big man Tristan Thompson discussed some of KL's resume:

Kyle Lowry is a Hall of Famer. He’s a (five)-time All-Star, Olympic gold medalist, an NBA champ. He’s their backbone."

When you think about it, Lowry's been the most steadying force for the franchise since he came in 2012. As a general rule, I love of Hall of Fame discussions so I'm looking forward to chatting about Lowry when his time comes.

In the present day, Lowry's had to hold things down amidst all the injuries. He's averaging a career high 38.1 minutes per game on a .419/.357/.869 shooting line. He's cut his turnovers down as well, and when your team is as short handed as Toronto is, getting the most out of every possession takes on even more importance.

Spencer Dinwiddie will continue running the show for the Nets. He's done admirable work pinch hitting for Kyrie Irving and his play has gotten him some early All Star love from the fans. Foul trouble kept him to 23 minutes on Thursday, his lowest as a starter this year. Assuming all goes well, he'll be out there for his usual 30+ minutes tonight. For Brooklyn's sake, they need to keep it close late so he can pull off some heroics.

From the Vault

I'm in a VC mood today. It's like that sometimes

More reading: Raptors HQ